accepted or rejected

Showing Your Work: rejection

June 12, 2019

It’s going to happen. You’ve been brave and organized and submitted to the shows that you think will be perfect. You followed all of the directions in the prospectus to the letter. You dutifully researched the venue, past shows, even the jurors. You have the best possible images of your artwork and yes, you did send in your best work. Then the envelope or the email arrives that says, “sorry – better luck next time.” You don’t get in.

Malachi’s Promise
rejected from half of the shows entered
also received a “Best of Show” at a local quilt show

What does it mean? Why do you feel like a failure? I discussed the jury process and the many reasons work is rejected from shows in this post on the topic in case you missed it.

What being rejected does NOT mean is that YOU are a failure as an artist or as a person. If you go into a blue funk that keeps you from making your work, you need to examine why.

Failure can be a friend if you are willing to learn from it. That is easier said than done but if you can learn to see failure as one more step towards success your life will be easier – and happier. And you will be growing as a person and as an artist.

Here’s the thing. If you want to be a grown up as an artist you MUST allow your work to speak for itself. It’s like letting your children grown up, leave home, and be their own unique individuals without them being YOU any more. Remember that each and every viewer comes to your work with their own unique set of prescription glasses. They have unique experiences, memories, inclinations, and loves that color how they see the world and how they react to art.

everyone sees the world through their own unique lens

Their reaction to your work is about THEM, it has nothing to do with you as a person, and often, absolutely nothing to do with your skill as an artist. Believe me, you don’t want to live in a world where everyone loves the exact same art. We would all be robots in an Orwellian nightmare of an existence.

Now let’s examine reasons why you might have been rejected that you can actually do something about.

accepted or rejected

First: are you entering venues appropriate for your work? A cutting edge and provocative piece might not be appropriate for a traditional quilt show and a traditional Baltimore Album isn’t going to make it in a Soho gallery.

Second: are you pinning all of your hopes on one piece? As a serious artist you want to be continually creating. You need to build up a body of work. (I’m preaching to myself here!) If you think this one piece is the best you ever have or ever will make then you have stopped progressing. Try to create enough work that you can have several pieces out there at the same time if entering shows is a path you wish to follow.

Third: take an objective look at both your photographs and your work. If you have someone whose opinion you trust, ask them for a critique. Use this as an opportunity to learn and to improve. The work might be fantastic and the photography impeccable. It still never hurts to find areas for improvement.


never juried into a show quilt but shown in several art galleries

Remember as well that the higher the quality of the show that you enter, the more likely it is that you will be rejected simply because of the number of applicants. Quilt National is what many of us Art Quilters call “our favorite charity.” It has an overwhelming number of entries compared to the number of Artworks that it can accept. It is also one of the most respected showcases of “the Quilt as Fine Art” that there is. A hardcover catalog is published every year and the show travels to respected venues. It is still on my list of “hope to get in before I die” shows so I continue to send in work and take my chances.

Here is a lovely blog post about entering shows by Elizabeth Barton. It includes a conversation with a juror about why some pieces were accepted in a nationally juried show. Well worth reading.

And here is a treat – Robbi Eklow’s wonderfully witty answer to rejection letters. READ IT! It will brighten your day.

Other essays in this series

Showing Your Work

Showing Your Work: motivation

Showing Your Work: choose your audience

Showing Your Work: choosing venues

Showing Your Work: fine craft shows

Showing Your Work: traveling trunk show

Showing Your Work: a museum experience

Showing Your Work: local venues

Showing Your Work: photographing your art

Showing Your Work: organizing entries

Showing Your Work: judged vs. juried

Showing Your Work: the jury process

Showing Your Work: rejection

Showing Your Work: more about rejection

Showing Your Work: shipping your artwork


  • Reply
    Regina B Dunn
    March 3, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you for these posts. I’ve just started to enter into some national calls for entry as I’m creating a body of work. This gives me a little more confidence. I’m printing the Robbi Eklow article for future giggles whenever I get a rejection letter.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    This is one of the best articles a newby could read, along with the linked articles. I feel blessed that I love the “making” of the piece… figuring out what colors, how to express, “perfecting” the process etc. My next step is to enter some juried shows to get feedback… even if it is a rejection letter. I know I need to connect more with the art world by getting out (and away from my studio) to see art shows and displays, opening my focus. The blessing is in having something I love to do. I don’t think negative feedback would kill the joy… we’ll see. Thanks to all…. writers and commenters. You all are such a rich resource, and I’m so happy you participate in all aspects of the “making of the art quilt.”

  • Reply
    Anne Copeland
    March 14, 2010 at 1:37 am

    That was one of the best articles I have read on rejections, Lyric. I honestly thought it was very thought provoking and very articulate about something I am sure everyone who enters juried events has faced.

    I realized a long time ago that I am just not a competitive person, so in general, I won't enter juried shows or other types of competitions. I enjoy making my quilts for small challenges and for helping nonprofits I believe in, or good causes or small exchange groups.

    Somehow just getting a quilt into a show to have it shown and not even sold isn't satisfying for me. Having a quilt sell from an alternative venue (a bookstore, city hall, library, etc.) is very satisfying. They generally don't take a commission(except perhaps the libraries, but I feel like that small commission is something I would enjoy contributing to a library anyway. In some areas at least, probably some or many of the folks who view quilts in the alternative venues are the same folks who go to galleries and other shows, so we are still getting good exposure, but without all the expense and the frustration. Some of the alternative venues are really pretty settings for the fiber arts, and they tend to look at the pieces so differently than the way they are seen in juried quilt shows and other events.

    I have had the same experience with the art organizations that have shows around my area. They welcome our fiber arts pieces, and it is wonderful to see the good viewer response at such shows, and to see quilts occasionally sell.

    I am thinking too that online exhibits are not a bad thing either. You don't have any shipping costs, or concerns about a piece getting lost. And you can "attend" and have friends attend who normally might balk at the idea of going out for an art exhibit. You definitely get good exposure, and who knows what other opportunities.

  • Reply
    Julaine Lofquist-Birch
    March 14, 2010 at 1:22 am

    I've thoroughly enjoyed exhibiting in local galleries and shows. I love the conversation between artist and patron in an intimate setting. I've done the local art museum's fine art fair for quite a few years now, and even though it's a lot of work, I feel as though I can really express myself as an artist through not only my work, but my display. It's a wonderful feeling to have patrons come looking for you. And…once in awhile, you might even win an award…love those purchase awards!

  • Reply
    Melly Testa
    March 13, 2010 at 2:47 am

    I chalk it up to it not being the right time or place! I just got rejected for the second time from Quilt Visions 2010, No Boundaries, (my second rejection for that venue).
    It isn't personal. It isn't my work, it isn't my photos. It really is down to time and place and those two weren't in order this time around. The one thing I could have done was send one more piece, I only had two new pieces, but rather than not entering, I did what I could.
    I think I am blessed because I love my work most while I am making it, afterward, I like the work very much, but am not attached. It is about the making. This is very helpful when trying to get into coveted shows,
    I just need to keep trying.

  • Reply
    Susan Brubaker Knapp
    March 13, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Great post. As always, very interesting and insightful reading. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Darcy Berg
    March 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    I think that you have to try to "not take it personally" and that it is "just one persons opinion". You have to satified with your work. If you aren't getting into "quilt" shows maybe you should investigate other venues. It is always great to get constructive critisism. Seek out a critique group.

    Thanks for posting this Lyric.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Mandi – Perfectionists are really IMPERFECTIONISTS. They can't enjoy the 99.9% of beauty because they focus entirely on the .01% of imperfection.
    It sounds like you were taught to be that way. We have one daughter who we have tried and tried and tried to help out of her perfectionist tendencies.

    When it helps you to grow it's good. When it makes you miserable all the time – not so good.

    Taking time off is always a lovely thing to do. I'm just getting back in after almost four years off. But I was creating things other than art during that time.

    I don't know how to teach people to become emotionally detached from their work after it is completed – wish there was a magic word for that!

    Take care!

  • Reply
    March 12, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Ah rejection! As my granny would have said…. they just don't know what "nice" is!!!

    I also stopped entering the big quilt shows due to the cost.

    I agree with Mandi who wrote "I think part of it comes from a background where every breath I took was criticized as never being good enough". I also had the dubious "help" from my family who would as "why didn't you……." (fill in the gap) and then get upset when I didn't change (whatever it was I did) to their "suggestion".

    I'm happy with what I do. If not, I wouldn't do it. Anyone who doesn't like it is free to feel that way. When I need an opinion from anyone else, I'll ask for it.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Thank you for your blog… haven't yet entered anything yet good to read about it as it's a goal of mine…

    ps. your art+quilt book is my Spring Break reading!
    🙂 Beth

  • Reply
    Kathie Briggs
    March 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Lyric, I stopped entering quilt shows a couple of years ago due to the high cost of the entry fees and shipping. I now enter local fine arts shows and I have a higher rate of acceptance, not to mention a wider exposure. The fine art shows, at least in my area, are "fiber friendly" and one venue where I have been accepted into a few shows has chosen me as featured artist this summer. One thing I find is the fine arts show entry fees are lower and that multiple works are encouraged. I also think they have a wider view of art. Seems like some of the quilt shows are highly influenced by the technique du jour.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    I have a hard time with rejection from juried shows because I am such a perfectionist and the rejection makes me incredibly critical of my work. I see it as a failure of the work to be good enough. But that's just me, and I know lots of people tell me I take it too personally blah blah blah, but that's how it is with me (I think part of it comes from a background where every breath I took was criticized as never being good enough).

    So I took time off from entering shows, and now I'm more pleased with my work and the quality that I am getting from the work. Maybe it's not good enough for others, but it's starting to be good enough for me and I may try entering again, just to see how it can push me.

    That's what I see it did for me now…it made me feel crummy, but that rejection pushed me.

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